With an outdoor ceremony, wild & unruly flowers, a bride vs groom team dragon boat race, 1,000 paper cranes and a ceilidh in a boat shed, Annie & Matt’s wedding on the edge of Galloway Forest Park was all about embracing the location and having an action packed weekend. If you’re looking for ideas for an alternative celebration of your own, then their day is sure to inspire…
Love at first sight or gradual attraction?
We are a bit shy! We met when we were working together and became part of the same friend group.
Tell us about your venue…
My mum has health problems and can’t travel far, so I was determined to get married within a short radius of my parents’ home in Dumfries and Galloway.
Galloway Activity Centre was the the first place we thought of, and the only venue we considered. Having worked for many years as a wedding musician, I’ve seen loads of hotels, castles, marquees and halls up and down the country, and I was very against having a “conveyor belt” wedding where the same schedule is rolled out every weekend.
Every other day of the year, Galloway Activity Centre is very much a working adventure centre, full of energy, activity, dogs, and people running around in wetsuits! We had faith that it would scrub up very nicely, and in every respect, it exceeded our expectations. The natural setting is beautiful on its own, but I couldn’t believe how magical the boat shed could be after the addition of some colourful sails, a few hundred fairy lights, and a whole lot of elbow grease.
The venue owner, Richard, brought at least as much enthusiasm, energy and creativity into the planning process as we did. He was hosting a family wedding shortly before ours, so he was full of ideas and we were able to share some costs on decorations and other bits and bobs that we both needed for the day. Galloway Activity Centre also has a fantastic selection of on-site accommodation, with dorms, yurts, cabins and luxury eco-bothies complete with wood-fired hot tubs – so most of our guests made a weekend of it, which was also nice for us because we got to spend a bit more time with everyone.
We hired a minibus from a local NGO which supplies group transport to the surrounding area. It’s great for the community because the local services can be far away and public transport is more or less non-existent in this rural area
What inspired your day?
Where to start?? I probably OD’d on Pinterest for a few months and this was the result…
We wanted to make use of the great space and facilities we had, and the venue team were really on board. Richard and team decked out a boat with bunting and an Amsterdam flag, and I got to have a very special arrival across Loch Ken for the ceremony, with a piper to meet us at the other side. Later, we had a bride vs groom team dragon boat race along the loch (I won’t say who won but there was definitely cheating). We hired floodlights and launched our guests up on the giant swing once it got dark, and turned an ante-room into a gelato bar, complete with Italian decorations and local ice cream from Cream of Galloway.
We’re both quite creative people and I wanted our wedding day to reflect that – and to be an opportunity to clear out all the craft materials I’d been hoarding for decades! I had a lot of beautiful origami paper from trips to Japan, and over the course of a few months of serious Netflix binges, folded the traditional 1000 paper cranes. We strung up the cranes among the trees with beads from old jewellery I’d hung on to over the years. We re-purposed an old school desk from my childhood bedroom to make a card box and thanks to enormous efforts from friends, salvaged a window decoration from a company I used to work for to make a cake stand. Our friends and family saved up jam jars for our flowers and candles, which we decorated with scrap ribbon I had lying around. Matt hand drew our seating chart and our friend Aafke painted a gorgeous illustrated on-the-day schedule on a blackboard. Our friend Jo and Matt’s sister Ann-Marie both sculpted custom cake toppers which we will keep forever.
I was a bit worried about what we’d do if it rained, so we also had a bunch of board games, including a wedding version of Cards Against Humanity and a customised Guess Who set with our wedding guests’ faces! As it turned out though, the weather was perfect and we ended the evening with floating candle lanterns in the loch, fireworks, sparklers and a roaring bonfire to keep everyone warm under the stars.
While preparing all of this was super fun (for me anyway), I had everything organised on a military schedule to get it all done in the few visits we had to Scotland in the run up to the wedding. We had a few fairly intense trips running around from place to place to get it all finished on time but it was so worth it. On the day, the groom was carrying a print-out of an Excel project plan in his sporran.
Matt designed our flyer-style invitations and we had them printed ourselves. We made a website for RSVPs and more detailed info. Now I need to find a way to offload our midg.es domain…
Oogst in Amsterdam made our custom wedding rings and my engagement ring. I love the natural wood and water textures and their commitment to using only ethically-sourced materials.
We have a bit of a crush on your flowers…
Our flowers came from our florist, Rosie’s beautiful garden at her home in Galloway, a few minutes from our venue. Rosie specialises in growing the traditional and sometimes forgotten native flowers that thrive in the local climate. We walked around the garden together looking at her plants and making a small posy to illustrate the colours, shapes and fragrances I liked. She understood our aesthetic straight away: I asked for wild, quirky and unruly and she absolutely delivered!
I had fuzzy grasses, seed pods and fruits in my bouquet and in my hair. Rosie made our bouquets and buttonholes herself, and dropped off heaps of cut flowers the day before the wedding, which our friends and families helped arrange for the venue decoration.
My auntie grew us some dahlias and other lovely bright blooms in her own garden, which we used to decorate the cake and in our arrangements.
How did you choose your photographer?
Our photographers were the lovely Golians. We browsed around a bit for photographers who matched our style: we didn’t want to spend the day herding our families into fussy lineups or being creepily followed by someone we weren’t comfortable with!
We sort of knew Jay through mutual friends and I’d been following his landscape stuff on Instagram for years, but I had no idea he did wedding photography. Once we figured that out, and I managed to convince Matt to get on a video call without hiding behind the couch, everything fell into place.
We loved working with Elemental because we’re both super awkward in front of the camera and Jay and Christina had good chat and really put us at ease. The pictures made all of our friends and families cry (in a good way).
And we hear you made your own film…
We wouldn’t have bothered with a video, but I was interested in getting a camera and passing it around among our friends, just to get some of the fun stuff on film. Turns out there’s a company that facilitates this whole process, and edits the whole thing at the end!
Our friends and family did a great job on the filming and we came away with a really nice edit at the end. We were able to capture our guests being themselves in a way they can’t when there’s some stranger pointing a camera in their face.
We love your dress! Tell us more…
I was really open to different styles, but I didn’t want my clothing to restrict what I could do on the day. It was important to be able to move so we could do all the things we planned – ceilidh dancing and getting in and out of boats! That’s why I chose a tea length gown. I’d seen the Brighton Belle range of vintage-style dresses and kept coming back to this one.
My shoes were Abigail heels by Kate Spade. I wore them around the house with hillwalking socks for ages before the wedding which looked ridiculous, but it really worked to make sure they were super soft and comfortable all day.
I had to have a bracelet specially made that would stay in place to cover a gigantic Apple Watch tan line! It ended up working out really well with my outfit and accessories. I borrowed a pair of pearl earrings from a friend. I had an old lace handkerchief from my mother for my “something old” and couldn’t find it on the morning of the wedding. My parents dug out a small enamel brooch with an “M” monogram, which had belonged to the great aunt who gave me my middle name – it was a great last-second save!
My bridesmaids wore the Tulle Two Birds multiway dress in Sage .
And what about Matt?
Matt wore a charcoal kilt and accessories from MacGregor and MacDuff. The best men wore their own choice of kilts – we were not too fussy about anyone matching.
I’ll also mention here that the bridesmaids were also going to be mix and match, but they both happened to like the same dress so they ended up matching after all.
Honeymoon or mini-moon?
After seeing off most of our guests with a haggis brunch on Sunday morning, we had one more chilled out night in the eco-bothy, then a couple of relaxed days in Edinburgh before flying back to Amsterdam.
I’m so very glad we did this – we really needed that time to come down from all the excitement, celebrate a bit together, and swap stories. We had a proper honeymoon in January: a city break in Singapore, wildlife watching in Borneo, then a long stretch of beach paradise in Langkawi.
Slow shuffle or big number?
We chose The Good Years by Karine Polwart and Edwin Morgan – two of my faves.
I wanted a band with small pipes, and the Drams Ceilidh Band were great, very professional and they really kept the energy up for the ceilidh.
We had a relatively short engagement – we got engaged in February and married in September, and we were organising everything remotely. In a way this made it easier, because we didn’t have time to second guess our decisions or talk ourselves out of anything – we just got on with it and booked everything we wanted without too much deliberation.
Everything we chose really matched our personalities and I’m glad we worked with vendors who were up for doing things a bit differently. We chose local suppliers where we could, which gave us the very best options at not-crazy prices.
Weather can be hit and miss in Scotland at any time of year, so planning a full day of outdoor activity like ours was quite risky. We had also prepared a solid rainy day plan with a different set of activities, and this gave us a lot more confidence to plan the ideal outdoor things we wanted to do. Even though we didn’t end up playing forest laser tag, I’m really glad we didn’t have to fret too much about something that was outside our control.
We’re both originally from Scotland and wanted to be close to our friends and family. Some of our friends made the trip from Amsterdam and stayed a bit longer to enjoy travelling around and seeing the sights.
What’s the one truly unforgettable thing about your wedding day?
Having all of our friends and family from over the years together in one place. You really only get to do that once in your life.
What an amazing location for a weekend long celebration. And how much fun does dragon boating look?! x
Venue – Galloway Activity Centre
Photographer – Elemental Photography
Filmmaker – Shoot it Yourself
Florist – Rosie Gray, Galloway Flowers
Hair stylist – Pamela Docherty, Asteria Bridal
Make-up artist – Jennifer Peffer, Asteria Bridal
Wedding dress – My dress was Polly from the Brighton Belle range by True Bride at Sarah Louise Bridal, Glasgow
Shoes – Kate Spade
Groom’s outfit – MacGregor MacDuff
Bridesmaids’ dresses – Tulle Two Birds multiway dress in Sage
Cake – NonaLou’s (local tearoom)
Celebrant – Maggie Roebuck, Humanist Society Scotland
Rings – Oogst in Amsterdam
Musicians – Drams Ceilidh Band
Additional suppliers – GlenKensTransport